Don't Let Go

This story concerns two workers at a coffee factory, their profit-focused/self-regarding employer, and the struggle for beauty or joy or play in an everyday life that has lost its fun. The title of Don’t Let Go haunts the play throughout – don’t let go of your balloon. Or your coffee beans. Or your dreams, your mind, your games, your fun. Rather than merely ask for a willing suspension of disbelief, Manic Chord Theatre you to appreciate how wonderful this suspension is. And this wonder of a show is very persuasive.

The show sets out to bring a playfulness back into man’s sterile 9-5 imagination, and it certainly succeeds there, whether in a single step of a tiny toy boot or the whole play’s general sense of elation.

The company truly comes into its own with stunning design and brilliantly whimsical staging, disguised by its seeming simplicity. Each piece of set is thoughtfully crafted; each scene more bewitching than the last. This is a world where confetti blossoms into a tempest; umbrellas circle like crows or ravens; red balloons float out of the ether to save your sanity; the moon hangs within reach. The puppetry (particularly the balloons) cannot fail to bring a smile to your face. The show sets out to bring a playfulness back into man’s sterile 9-5 imagination, and it certainly succeeds there, whether in a single step of a tiny toy boot or the whole play’s general sense of elation.

It is unfortunate that this praise cannot extend to all aspects of the piece. What the actors are saying is hardly ever as gripping as what they’re doing. With some exceptions, like the witty moongazing lovetalk, much of the dialogue doesn’t add that much to the show as a whole. In this respect, less could have been more. The acting, too, certainly isn’t dull but never really shines as much as the play’s real strengths. The convincingly irritating coffee boss can be overly irritating, with a forced drawling enunciation that easily becomes grating. The aged and melodramatic mother played in drag can come across as merely silly, in contrast to the thoughtfully playful action – her warmest reaction came from a giggling toddler in the front row, rather tellingly. However, I’d also like to think calling this ensemble greater artists than actors isn’t too heavy a criticism, as the show deserves much praise. 

Reviews by Henry St Leger

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The Blurb

Leonard’s life is absorbed in nullity, that is until he meets the most unlikely of saviours; a red balloon. Don’t Let Go tells the most enchanting and beautiful of stories, whilst exploring what it means to be an adult. Highlighting the importance of play in our lives, this show celebrates the joyfulness which lies deep within us all. Incorporating an energised physicality, poetic lyricism and hypnotic puppetry, Manic Chord Theatre and their balloon pry, tongue-tie and fly their way through this darkly enchanting tale.

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